Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A most ingenious paradox

This is a tricky time of year to be a daily TV columnist. On the one hand, I have so many midseason shows arriving in the mail that I barely have time to watch them all. (Today's jackpot: the first four episodes of "The Shield" season five.) On the other, I can't write about those until closer to when they air, so I have almost nothing to fill the column with. Other than my top 10 list and our annual Festivus list of TV shows and people who disappointed Matt and me, it's an idea vacuum. Today's column, dealing with a couple of religious news specials and some more speculation on the post-John Spencer "West Wing," may be our last non-list column of the year.

"Arrested Development" was decent, not great last night. The J. Walter Weatherman's lessons gag is played, and we got three different lessons-within-lessons last night. Glad to see the return of Bob Loblaw (and the introduction of the Bob Loblaw Law Blog), plus the return of Tobias' gay single entendres, and even the brief snippets of the GOB/Franklin "It's not easy being white" duet, but overall, pretty meh.

"How I Met Your Mother" is about to have to do some fancy footwork. Either the producers saw that they had underestimated the level of Ted/Robin chemistry or someone at the network started sending very angry notes on the subject, because it's clear that, whatever Future Ted may have said about "Aunt Robin" in the past, the two of them are going to get together, and soon. Maybe we discover that Future Ted has been playing a large mindgame on his kids, and that Robin's name isn't really Robin so they wouldn't realize their dad was talking about their mom. But, like the other really strong episodes (the one at the nightclub, the one with Drunk Ted), the writers stuck to a single plotline and made Present Ted as upbeat as possible. Best moment: Marshall running out of the fog to the strains of "You Give Love a Bad Name."

I also half-watched "Two and a Half Men," which Marian enjoys more than I do but isn't bad. Senses-jolting moment: when I realized that Alan's hot but insane girlfriend was played by Josie Davis, the wallflower middle sister from "Charles in Charge" (aka "Bob Loblaw in Charge"). And, apparently, I've seen her before in things like "Titans" and the awful "LA Law" reunion movie without recognizing her. It's one thing for a former child star to turn hot in front of your eyes (Natalie Portman, the pre-anorexia Lindsay Lohan), but to have one disappear and turn up as a babe 15 years later? Unsettling.

Getting back to midseason for a second, I already blogged about "The Unit," and I got to see the excellent pilot for "Book of Daniel" (Vicodin-addicted minister pals around with Jesus) six months ago. In the last few days, I watched "Courting Alex," the new Jenna Elfman sitcom where she essentially plays Greg to Josh Randall's Dharma. Not a lot there, but if Randall starts wearing his "Vote Dukakis '88" t-shirt, I might be willing to give it another look. I hated Julia Louis-Drefyus' "The New Adventures of Old Christine," but Marian laughed hysterically at it, so either it's a show with a large gender skew or her standards have really dropped since sitcoms went into the tank at the end of the '90s.

And the "Chronicles of Narnia" rap remains firmly lodged in my head. "Google Maps is the best! True dat! DOUBLE TRUE!"

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